Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi

Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me: Greenfield, Eloise, Abdollahi ...

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me: Greenfield, Eloise, Abdollahi ...

Summary:  When Jace and his family get a new puppy, they want to give him a cute name, but the puppy informs them that he’s too deep for that.  Jace gives him the name Thinker, and Thinker lives up to his new name, creating poems for all kinds of situations.  Jace tells the dog that he has to be quiet in public, but sometimes Thinker can’t hold back, like when Jace takes him to school for pets’ day.  Most of the poems are in Thinker’s voice, with Jace chiming in occasionally, and most are free verse, with one haiku and one rap.  Includes an author’s note with some additional thoughts about poetry.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This is a fun and accessible introduction to poetry for young kids with bold, colorful collage illustrations.  

Cons:  The title made me think that Jace would be the narrator.  The fact that Thinker could apparently talk in what otherwise appeared to be a realistic setting was a little confusing to me.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

A Girl Like Me by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Nina Crews

Published by Millbrook Press

A Girl Like Me: Johnson, Angela, Crews, Nina: 9781541557772 ...

A Girl Like Me: Johnson, Angela, Crews, Nina: 9781541557772 ...

Summary:  Angela Johnson’s poem and Nina Crews’ photographs follow three girls who share their dreams…which are not always enthusiastically received by others.  They’ve dreamed of flying, walking over tall buildings, and swimming deep in the ocean, but some people tell them to keep their feet on the ground and be like everyone else.  They persist, though, dressing up and leading a parade of girls through the streets and to the ocean, because “a girl like me should always be thinking way up high and making everything better than the dream”.  The last two pages include thumbnail photos of all the girls who appear in the book, sharing what they like and what their dreams are.  32 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  Nina Crews’s intriguing photo collage illustrations really bring this poem to life, making it a perfect companion to Seeing Into Tomorrow, the book of poems by Richard Wright that she illustrated with photos featuring boys.  The last two pages make a nice discussion starter to talk about hopes and dreams for the future.

Cons:  I didn’t quite get this book the first time I read it, and had to go back and read it more carefully, with special attention to the illustrations.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Published by Carolrhoda Books

Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A ...

The Art of Dictionary for a Better World

Summary:  From “acceptance” and “ally” to “yes” and “zest”, Latham and Waters take readers through an alphabet of words designed to make them think about how to make the world a better place.  Each page features a poem about the word, a personal anecdote written by one of the authors, an appropriate quote, and a definition of the poetic form used. There’s also a “Try It!” suggestion for an activity that focuses on the concept.  Includes a note from the authors; materials referenced in the quotes; additional recommended books; poetry resources; and an index of poetic forms.  120 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  The team that brought you Can I Touch Your Hair? has created a beautifully illustrated book that could be used to teach poetry or to begin a discussion on any of the words.  The anecdotes and “Try It!” suggestions could lead to some writing activities.  

Cons:  I wasn’t super excited to read a book entitled Dictionary for a Better World; seems like the authors or editors could have thought of a title with a little more zing.

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Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math by Jeannine Atkins

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Released August 4)

Thanks to Atheneum for providing me with a digital copy of this book to review. Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math ...

Summary:  As she did in Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, Jeannine Atkins has created biographical novels-in-verse about seven women who used math to excel in their chosen careers.  She starts with Caroline Herschel (1750-1948), who helped her brother William (discoverer of the planet Uranus); she eventually received a salary from the king of England for her work and was awarded a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society.  Other subjects include nursing trailblazer Florence Nightingale; inventor Hertha Ayrton; undersea mapmaker Marie Tharp; sociologist Edna Lee Paisano; NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson; and astronomer Vera Rubin, the second woman to receive the Royal Astronomical Society’s gold medal (in 1996, a mere 168 years after Caroline Herschel got hers).  Woven into the narratives are messages about the importance of math and of women pursuing math-related careers. Includes additional information and a selected bibliography about each subject.  320 pages; grades 5-8. 

Pros:  A great addition to both poetry and STEM collections, these stories are told with lyrical language and close attention to detail that brings the subjects to life.  The importance of math in a wide variety of fields is emphasized, along with the struggles that each woman had making her voice heard in male-dominated fields.

Cons:  This seems like it might have a limited audience; the stories may be more suitable to a class assignment than something middle school kids would pick up on their own.

If you would like to pre-order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here. 

Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Carmen Saldaña

Published by Charlesbridge

Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections: Michelle Schaub ...

review + giveaway] Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections ...

Summary:  A school assignment to share a collection leaves the narrator wondering what she should bring.  Her classmates seem excited about their showing their arrowheads, marbles, and teddy bears, but she doesn’t collect anything.  She interviews family members and friends, creating poems about each of them: her mother’s buttons, her brother’s baseball cards, an aunt’s license plates–even the mail carrier’s collection of smiling faces.  The last page shows her back at school, surrounded by kids with samples of their collections on their desks. She’s not worried now, though, because she has a collection of her own–a book of poems. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A charming first poetry book for primary grade kids by the author of Fresh-Picked PoetryReaders may be inspired to start a collection, write a poem, or do both.

Cons:  This book actually came out in 2019.  

If you would like to buy this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye

Published by Greenwillow Books

Image result for cast away poems for our time

Summary:  Young People’s Poet Laureate Nye has written 84 poems with the theme of trash.  Many are about found objects that she or someone else has discovered on the streets, beaches, in a trash bin, or some other location.  An eight-page introduction tells of her lifelong interest in keeping things tidy and some of the rewards she has discovered from picking up trash.  The poems are divided into five sections: Sweepings, Titters & Tatters, Odds & Ends, Willy-Nilly, and Residue. A final section gives kids ten ideas for writing, recycling, and reclaiming.  Includes an index of the poems by first lines. 176 pages; grades 5 and up.

Pros:  This is a fun topic for poetry.  Most of the poems are brief, but thought-provoking, and will inspire kids to look more closely at the world around them.

Cons:  While this seems like a collection intended for elementary students, I think many of the poems would go over the heads of most kids under the age of 10.  The introductory poem, “Taking Out the Trash” by Kamilah Aisha Moon feels more like an adult work.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Image result for black is a rainbow color amazon

Image result for black is a rainbow color angela joy

Summary:  A girl looks at the colors in her crayon box and in a rainbow, and realizes there’s no black in rainbows.  But her color is black, and she looks at what else is black: a feather in the snow, her best friend’s hair, her bicycle tires.  From there, she moves to the black in Black culture: Thurgood Marshall’s robe, birds in cages that sing, raisins and dreams left out in the sun to die.  Finally, she moves on to the history, family, memory, and love that are all part of her and her community. “So you see, there is no black in rainbows.  No black in green or blue.  But in my box of crayons, Black is a rainbow, too.”  Includes an author’s note; a playlist of 11 songs; two pages with further information on some of the allusions in the main text; 3 poems; a timeline of black ethnonyms (words that have been used to refer to Black people) over the course of American history; and a bibliography.  40 pages; ages 4 and up.

Pros:  This beautiful poem with its stunning illustrations (they reminded me of stained glass) is a deceptively simple introduction to Black culture and history.

Cons:  Most sources recommend this book for ages 4-8, but the references in the main text and the extensive back matter could make this a useful resource for any age and would be even more meaningful for older kids.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Five Favorite Poetry Books

Lots of good poetry books to choose from this year.  Here are a few that I especially enjoyed.


The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Published by Candlewick

Image result for shortest day susan cooper amazon

As I mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t find many new holiday books in 2019.  This beautifully illustrated version of Susan Cooper’s poem celebrating the winter solstice will be enjoyed for many Decembers to come.


I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Published by Lee & Low Books

Image result for i remember poems and pictures amazon

Neither the title nor the cover really drew me in, but I loved this book once I got past that.  Poems and illustrations by a variety of writers and artists celebrate childhoods from all around the world.


Poetree by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

Image result for poetree reynolds amazon

This picture book celebrates the power of words and would make a perfect introduction to poetry for early elementary students.


16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow” by Lisa Rogers, illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Published by Schwartz and Wade

Image result for 16 words william carlos amazon

I didn’t know I wanted to read a picture book of William Carlos Williams until I found 16 Words.  Another good one to share with students during a poetry unit, and a nice accompaniment to Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, which includes the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.”


The Day the Universe Exploded My Head by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Anna Raff

Published by Candlewick

Image result for day the universe exploded my head amazon

Now here’s a cover and title that draws you in immediately.  Proves, once again, that poetry can be fun and educational, too.


It’s not just the Caldecott

Although we in the children’s literature world tend to focus on the Newbery and Caldecott, check out the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards to see all the other categories that are recognized at the same time.  Here are a few picture books that I believe are worthy of consideration for some of those.


Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Published by Versify

Image result for undefeated kwame amazon

I love Kwame Alexander’s poem, but I think it’s illustrator Kadir Nelson who is most likely to be recognized with a Coretta Scott King award this year for his amazing portraits of the African Americans Alexander writes about.


The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Daniel Minter

Published by Alazar Press

Image result for women who caught babies amazon

This one could go either way for the Coretta Scott King award: both the poems and the illustrations are pretty amazing.


Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Tonya Engel

Published by Lee & Low Books

Image result for rise maya angelou amazon

Pity that Coretta Scott King committee who has so many worthy contenders to choose from this year.


¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market! by Raul the Third

Published by Versify

Image result for vamos raul third amazon

I will be pretty surprised if Raúl the Third doesn’t get some sort of Pura Belpré recognition for his Richard Scarry-like illustrations of this trip to the market.  I was happy to learn recently that Let’s Go Eat! is coming out in March.


A Place to Land: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Published by Neal Porter Books

Image result for place to land martin luther amazon

And one more Coretta Scott King possibility.  Of course, all of these could be contenders for the Caldecott as well.  Truth be told, I dreamed up this blog post because there were so many I wanted to put on the Caldecott prediction post, and for some reason I always limit myself to five.

I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Published by Lee and Low Books

Image result for i remember poems and pictures of heritage lee bennett

Image result for i remember poems and pictures of heritage lee bennett

Summary:  Fourteen poets have written childhood remembrances, with an emphasis on their cultural heritage and how it shaped them.  Each poem is illustrated by a different artist, and every artist and poet has written a sentence or two about their art or writing.  Some (“Grandpa” by Douglas Florian; “Amazing Auntie Anne” by Cynthia Leitich Smith) celebrate a person; others (“Route 66” by Marilyn Nelson; “Tepechapa River” by Jorge Tetl Argueta), a particular place; and still others (“Speak Up” by Janet S. Wong; “Pick One” by Nick Bruel) speak to the experience of growing up as an immigrant in America.  Includes brief biographical information and photos of all the writers and illustrators. 56 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  This beautiful and accessible collection of poetry and artwork shows readers the variety of experiences in America and may inspire them to find a way to express their own story through writing or art.

Cons:  The cover and title didn’t really grab me (sorry, Sean Qualls, I generally love your work); I was pleasantly surprised once I dove in.  

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.



If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.